PRESCOTT – At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Prescott School Board voted 41 to go to referendum in April 2022, asking taxpayers to authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $15 million, which would be used to perform maintenance on three of the district’s four buildings.
The lone dissenter, Board Vice President Steve Sizemore, said he’s dedicated to supporting the referendum from the standpoint that the buildings do indeed need the work, but still voted no because he wants the district to have a comprehensive master plan in place first. He mentioned his desire for a master plan in February when the board voted to move third grade back to Malone Elementary.
“We also have to illustrate the fact that we have a vision of what’s going to happen with these four buildings,” Sizemore said. “And I think the community wants that as confirmation so that if we’re going to stay with four, they understand basically what they’re going to be used for. Because you know rumors swirl…” Like he did at the Dec. 1 meeting, he used the analogy of putting money into car repairs. How much money you put into a car depends on how long you’re keeping the car. What if they decide in a few years to get rid of the middle school building, for example? That’s not on the table at this time and the board has committed to being a fourbuilding district, but what if?
“If we’re not going to have it in a
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few years, why dump money into it?” he asked.
Board Clerk Pat Block read a statement that he prepared ahead of time. As a board, they’ve been tasked with evaluating and recommending strategies to maintain the district’s communityowned assets, creating and maintaining safe and appropriate spaces for students and staff to teach and learn, while being stewards of taxpayer dollars, he said.
“The kind of generational, capital investments required to maintain our facilities, from time to time, are simply not able to be saved for by Wisconsin public schools,” Block said. “These investments require either borrowing, donations or cuts to programming, services and staff.”
According to Block, Buildings & Grounds Supervisor Mike Hoikka and the administration have done a great job of developing forward-thinking strategies while identifying both immediate and long-range needs to keep facilities safe and functional while working to eliminate costly, reactive repairs. Those strategies have been validated by the Facilities Advisory Committee, the board, SDS Architects and Market & Johnson. Block said he respects Sizemore’s concerns about a master plan, but disagrees that long-range planning hasn’t taken place.
“I think this is slightly inaccurate and unfair,” Block said. “While it is fair we haven’t yet finalized a comprehensive building and green space master plan, long-range planning to maintain our four buildings has been supported by the past public community survey sent out this last year.
The referendum is about maintaining existing assets, which needs to be done in order to form and evaluate a master plan, he added. He also addressed comments coming from a vocal community group on social media.
“There is also current concern over how maintaining our facilities is in potential conflict of what may be happening inside of the building walls,” Block said. “I personally believe that as a taxpayer, you need to decouple the two, and fell that maintaining our current investments in critical.”
With zero impact to existing property tax scenarios, the district can accomplish both, he said.
Board member Vicki Rudolph echoed Block’s sentiments, saying the building must be kept in working order in order to move forward with any kind of planning.
“Once we do that, we can involve the community in a master plan,” Rudolph said.
Board Treasurer Tonya Holub said the community in the survey made it very clear it wants to maintain four buildings, which the board committed to do in order to move forward with a master plan. The board has also been purposeful in creating savings accounts (such as Fund 46) for capital investment projects and working on its bond rating.
“No school district in Wisconsin is able to save this kind of money, at least with how funding is done,” Holub said.
The referendum dollars would be used for basic maintenance such as roofing, HVAC, building envelope, doors, windows, etc., not reconfiguring classrooms or making over buildings for other uses, she added.
Board President Mike Matzek believes the referendum is critical.
“It’s hard to have a master plan if the buildings are falling apart,” he said.